Why You Should Care
New Research Shows Persistence of Digital Divide
By civilrights.org staff
October 4, 2005
The digital divide between online Americans and those falling through the net is large and continues to grow,
according to new research released by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) at a
September 27 briefing on Capitol Hill.
The LCCREF report, authored by Dr. Rob Fairlie of the University of California, Santa Cruz, finds wide racial and
cultural disparities in computer and Internet access that are not explained by income or education levels. Based on
the most recent and comprehensive Census data, the report finds:
African Americans and Latinos are significantly less likely to have a home computer than white Americans.
More than seven in ten white Americans own a home computer compared to roughly five in ten African
Americans and Latinos.
Similarly, African American and Latino families are less likely to be online. Roughly four in ten black and
Latino children have home Internet access compared to nearly eight in ten white children.
Income is a factor in computer connectivity but does not account for racial and cultural disparities. Even
among families with incomes of at least $60,000 Black and Latino Americans are substantially less likely to
have a home computer or be online.
There is a cultural and language divide. Asian Americans have slightly higher home computer and Internet
access rates than White Americans (78 percent compared to 70 percent). Whereas Spanish-speaking
Latinos, especially Mexican Americans, have strikingly low access to a home computer or the internet.
"The digital divide debate is not a debate about gadgets or even markets. It is a debate about who gets to speak and
to hear, and for what price, and to whom," said Wade Henderson, Counselor to LCCREF and Executive Director of
the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
"Just like in the last century Congress recognized that access to the telephone was critical to all Americans, in this
century, Congress needs to recognize that access to the Internet from the home, including access to high speed
connections is critical to all Americans' well being, economic security, and educational opportunity," said Gloria
Tristani, former Federal Communications Commission commissioner and Managing Director of the Office of
Communication of the United Church of Christ.
Joining Fairlie and Tristani on the panel were legal advisor to the Communication Service for the Deaf and former
FCC Deputy Karen Peltz Strauss, Native Networking Policy Center president Marcia Warren Edelman, the NAACP's
Washington Bureau director Hilary Shelton.
The LCCREF report includes a series of recommendations designed to close the digital divide for racial and ethnic